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Indians stymie Blue Jays 4-2 to take commanding 3-0 lead in ALCS

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Indians starter Trevor Bauer could only go two-thirds of an inning before departing as his stitched-up pinkie finger opened up and began dripping blood. Nevertheless, the Indians persevered and defeated the Blue Jays 4-2 in Game 3 of the ALCS to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. The Indians will have a chance to wrap it up on Tuesday and punch their ticket to the World Series.

The Indians gave Bauer an early lead when, after Carlos Santana drew a leadoff walk against starter Marcus Stroman, Mike Napoli swatted a two-out RBI double to right-center field that bounced off of Jose Bautista.

Bauer insisted his injury — suffered repairing a drone, something he built as a hobby — wouldn’t be an impediment despite it causing the Indians to push him back in their ALCS rotation. Bauer struck out Jose Bautista looking to begin the bottom of the first inning and it appeared to be smooth sailing. But he walked Josh Donaldson, got Edwin Encarnacion to line out, then walked Troy Tulowitzki to put runners on first and second base. The FS1 cameras showed Bauer’s right hand dripping blood.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to speak with home plate umpire Brian Gorman, pointing out Bauer’s wound. Indians manager Terry Francona was on the mound discussing the issue with Bauer. Gorman came up to Francona and said the bleeding was “too much” and said Bauer would need to be replaced. Dan Otero took the mound and got Russell Martin to ground out to end the inning.

Michael Saunders drilled a solo homer to left field off of Otero in the bottom of the second, tying the game at 1-1. That marked the Jays’ first home run of the ALCS.

Napoli came through again for the Indians in the fourth, drilling a solo home run to center field off of Stroman to break the tie. Napoli also became the fifth player to hit a home run for four different teams in the postseason.

The Jays were able to knot things back up at 2-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ezequiel Carrera laced a triple to right-center to lead off the frame. Ryan Goins knocked Carrera in with a ground out to shortstop. But that was the end of the Blue Jays’ offense, as the Indians’ bullpen continued to dominate.

Bryan Shaw got five outs, allowing two hits and striking out two batters. He yielded a leadoff single to Kevin Pillar in the seventh before being replaced by closer Cody Allen. Allen was able to get Carrera to fly out to right field. While pinch-hitter Justin Smoak was batting, Pillar stole second base. Allen, howeer, rebounded by striking Smoak out on a curve. Bautista worked a walk, but Donaldson lined out to left field to end the threat.

In the eighth, Shaw got Encarnacion to ground out before striking out Tulowitzki. Lefty Andrew Miller entered the game for the final four outs. He easily fanned Martin to send the game to the ninth.

The Indians threatened to score more runs in the top of the ninth against Roberto Osuna, putting runners on second and third with one out, but ultimately came up empty. Miller came back out for the bottom of the ninth. Miller worked around a leadoff single to Dioner Navarro, striking out Pillar and pinch-hitter B.J. Upton before inducing a game-ending ground out up the middle from Darwin Barney.

With a chance to clinch the ALCS, the Indians will send Corey Kluber out to the mound on short rest to face the Blue Jays in Game 4 on Tuesday at 4:00 PM EDT. The Jays will counter with Aaron Sanchez with their playoff lives on the line.

Sign-stealing penalties could be ‘unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history’

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Early this morning we learned that Major League Baseball was planning to talk to former Astros Carlos Beltrán and Alex Cora as part of the sign-stealing investigation. Late this morning Jeff Passan of ESPN reported that the investigation is, actually, going to go much wider than that.

Passan reports that Major League Baseball will not limit its focus to the 2017 Astros, who were the subject of the report in The Athletic on Tuesday. Rather, it will also include members of the 2019 Astros and will extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentions the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Oh, it also includes recently-fired Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman, who the league plans to interview but who, Passan says, has hired a lawyer. Which is sort of interesting in its own right, but let’s stay on topic.

Passan:

The league is attempting to cull tangible evidence from the widespread paranoia of front offices and teams around the game about others cheating and has indicated it will consider levying long suspensions against interviewees who are found to have lied, sources said . . . The penalties for illegal activity are determined by commissioner Rob Manfred, though if the league can prove wrongdoing, the severity could be unlike anything seen in the sport’s recent history, sources said.

The Cardinals were fined $2 million when an employee, Chris Correa, hacked the Astros computer system. Correa, of course, was permanently banned from baseball and served prison time. Former Braves GM John Coppolella was likewise given a permanent ban for lying about the team’s circumvention of international signing rules. If Passan’s source is right and the league is going to level heavy penalties here, that’s where you have to start, I imagine.

To me, the stuff about Coppolella’s lying and the bit about interviewees lying mentioned in the block quote is key.

Will anyone have the hammer brought down upon them for being responsible for stealing signs? Hard to say. But they likely will if they are not forthcoming with league investigators. Which is actually a pretty decent way to handle things when one is conducting an internal investigation. Maybe you don’t give amnesty to wrongdoers in the name of information-gathering, but you do signal to them that cooperation is incentivized and lack of cooperation will be punished.

It’s an approach, by the way, that Major League Baseball notably did not take in the course of its PED investigations a decade ago. That led to a final report that had massive gaps in information and caused the league to focus on and publicize only the lowest-hanging fruit. As I argued at the time, if information-gathering, as opposed to P.R. considerations was its true aim, MLB would’ve handled it differently.

In the early stages here, in contrast, it does sound like baseball is taking this seriously. That’s a good thing.